Once the film has been out for a while I may do a re-cap of the major reveals in more details as well as the obligatory Easter egg hunt. For now lets focus on broad terms; how does this film hold up and compare to the rest of the Marvel line up.
I called Avengers a safe movie, one that hit all the notes it was supposed to, but it was polished to an absolute gleam; and while it was very traditional for an action movie it's attempt to blend in several franchises and genres and have them all feel cohesive was incredibly ambitious. Avengers: The Age of Ultron suffers for not being as refined, the weight of having to keep so many balls in the air, supporting and introducing new characters begins to show.
Avengers 2 is not as good as Avengers 1, it's not as refined, it has too many plot notes it needs to hit and attempting to one up it's previous film. I saw it over a week ago and while I do still remember plot points and character motivations my feelings to the film are fairly, ehhhh.
Perhaps the tipping point of over saturation of comic movies has been reached sooner then most thought, or Avengers 2 simply suffers from middle movie-itis. It's not the treasured first born that was Avengers, nor will it be the chaotic misbehaving twins of Infinity Wars. It has to struggle to continue developing what was already set up, introduce new plot threads and still be a contained movie. It is eons more successful at that then Hobbit: The *missing* desolation of Smaug was, however it probably isn't up to the Two Towers level of skill either.
Let's brush on weak points and strengths; Tony vs Cap is already feeling like a fiddle played too often. We know this song boys, and I for one am not looking forward to another encore during Captain 3: Civil War. There are too many plot points and too many characters, a few clearly just making cameo's to remind the audience they exist so it isn't confusing when they show up at the end.
I'd count the humor as both a strength and weakness, it's still funny but the first movie it felt more natural, here it feels a little more forced. As if they have pauses to wait for the audience to laugh.
When it's on point however it is still genuinely funny. The new characters were also a mixed bag however I can't go into to much detail without spoilers.
The action is still clear however despite being in a smaller city for the climax it feels far more spread around. The opening action seen had some laughably bad CGI at points and was clearly influenced by Captain America's montage from the first movie. It was also deliberately watered down so it didn't compete with the climax. When they are all brought together to protect something in the climax it really feels intense and close. That scene was pretty beautiful, and there were a few great moments.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is worth the price of admission, compared to many blockbusters it is fun and clever. However Ultron may not have any stings on him, but there are plenty all over this movie, it's constrained in parts and stretched in others. This is where we see the cost of Marvel's ambitious plan, service to the continuity over service to making the best product possible. It's still not nearly as embarrassing as Sony's attempt at the exact same thing but it will make me more wary for any studio attempting such a task. (DC I'm looking at you)
Thor 2, I'm pretty sure I saw it... I remember all these fantastic scenes with Loki... and some form of floaty evil thing that took over Natalie Portman....
Thor 2 is not very memorable is the point I'm trying to make.
It is both plodding and rushed, shallow and for the most part unemotional. There are some really great scenes but they appear far between and are not enough to save the rest of the movie, but let's look at why, because this movie was enjoyable at the time.
I really loved Thor, I considered the first movie to really be a stand out for the Marvel movies. Formulaic yes but also with it's own very unique charm and humour. The lighting was bright and the humour was cute, it trusted the audience to get the jokes without explaining them, the characters were respected by the story. All of that is lost in the new one. Thor 2: the Dark World is unsurprisingly visually a much darker movie, but not only in the dark world. Even the gold of Asgard feels dulled, the bright desert is replaced with a dower looking London so the dark world doesn't appear darker in comparison. It's more Thor 2: The Dark everything.
The humour... ohhh the humour. Do you remember Eric Selvig? The intelligent mentor to Natalie Portman who was off beat but clearly much more aware of what went on in the world, he had had dealings with SHIELD in the past? Well now he's naked... and crazy, and wearing no pants because it helps him think. All with the weak explanation that he had a God in his head... oh well... I guess we can expect Hawk-eye to run into battle in the next Avengers movie is baggy y-fronts as well? No? You just wanted to take your humour tips from the parents in Transformers 2? Well when you do that... amazingly, it ends up not being funny. The only genuine moments of humour come from Loki but I will get to him later when I discuss what actually did work in this movie.
The characters in the first movie were all well defined, deep? Not really, but well defined yes. Why then is Odin, who sent his eldest son to Earth to get him to understand that being king sometimes means not going to war rather than fighting for the sake of fighting and that all life is important not just Asgardian life being such a war hungry a**hole. Odin continues to ignore Thor's plea to listen to alternatives to war even though it will destroy Asgard and refers to Natalie Portman as a goat at the dinning table. What really frustrates me is that this would not have been hard to fix... all Odin had to do was listen to Thor's plan properly and then after consideration say no. Because Thor's plan was fucking stupid. 'I know this guys defeated hundreds of Asgardian warriors and I wasn't even able to stop him breaking into our palace and killing my mother but if I take the one thing he needs to destroy the universe, and fight him alone with only the help of treasonous brother... I'm sure we can win'. Guess what... he doesn't win.
The movie is also so dark I could confuse it for the washed out colours of a DC movie. Now one would assume that Thor: The Dark World would of course be more visually dark to match the content, but everything is dark. London is dark, Asgard is dark, almost every location is darker than the first one so the actual 'dark world' has no visual impact at all. It ends up being Thor: The Dark Universe... with one world that is a lot more sandy. Part of the charm of the first movie was the visual brightness, there is no better way to describe it but Thor felt like it was directed by Gilderory Lockheart. Thor 2... does not.
Enough beating the movie for a moment though, lets look at what did work. I'm not sure if the plan was always to focus on the emotional journey of Loki or if his popularity after the Avengers pushed the film makers to have the entire movie orbit around him. Regardless, Tom Hiddleston's performance is really what saves this movie. Loki's character and his relationships with his mother and brother are the emotional heart of Thor 2. His mother, the warrior Queen Frigga also has one of the best scenes sacrificing herself but going out with an epic one on one battle. This is undermined somewhat as you discover that Natalie Portman was just hiding in the next room... thank Christ the dark elf never looked around the fucking door. I had thought he was able to sense the Ether at all times, but my mistake.
I know, I know... I said I would stop beating on this movie so let me wrap up my final point. I don't think this movie is bad, I wouldn't even go as far as saying it isn't an enjoyable movie. But it is, in my opinion, the weakest of the current Marvel Universe films (those in cannon with Avengers that is). I complain because I love the Marvel movies, and I don't want to see them starting to slip into weaker patterns to push out more movies faster.
Worth seeing, but understandable if you wait till the DVD.
I have returned! I am sure the 5 friends I force to read this are thrilled.
Having finally finished University I feel it is time to really commit to keeping this blog going, as well as getting under way with my novel writing; you will be hearing more about that early next year. And as such, we are introducing the Quick Bits! This is a quick update on the media I have been consuming, what I am looking forward to and what I've had to spit back up. So let's get started!
Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon -
I really loved this book, I found it a quick enjoyable read that was very welcoming as an introduction to Space Opera. I hesitate to call it a great book, with the exception of the main character all the characters are very one note and there is a lot of unnecessary detail and events that while I enjoyed, I can see other people having problems with it.
The Other Boylen Girl by Phillipa Gregory -
Inspired by the video podcast book club, Vaginal Fantasy with Felicia day (and 3 other lovely ladies) I've been dipping my tow into the waters of the highly criticised romance genre. Unfortunately I started with this book. I did not like it, I did not finish it, I didn't even get halfway. I don't like leaving a book without giving it a fair go but honestly this book reveled in all the tropes that have so far turned me off romance books.
Thor: The Dark World - Thor 2
Eeeehhhh... While I did enjoy this movie, especially the performance by Tom Hiddleston it was just really cold compared to the first one. It lost the whimsy and characters of the first movie and felt the most formulaic of all the marvel movies to come out of late. I am planning a full review so more details later but I think I can chock this one up to the change in Directors from Kenneth Branagh and Josh Whedon to James Gunn and Alan Taylor.
Catching Fire - Hunger Games 2
Yes, yes... all of the yes. This movie tackled the difficult task of holding the audiences interest between first and third movies. The aesthetic still felt consistent, the actors played their part well although one of my friend felt that Jennifer Lawrence 's facial movements were over the top for emotions. If you enjoyed the first one, you will like the second one and it will get you pumped for the third. A larger evaluation of consequence in YA inspired work will be coming soon.
Superman VS Batman - (still in production)
To say I am mixed on this movie is an understatement. I hate that the next movie DC is making does not star ANY of the other superhero's and instead is just rehashing the only two characters they seem comfortable in showing. However they have suggested that this movie will also cameo Wonder Woman as a lead in to her own movie, FINALLY!!!!!! On top of that the 4 possible laddies they have released for the role are all strong looking woman who I feel would fit the part well. However, apparently they have asked Frank Miller as a consultant... and I do not want him consulting anywhere near the character of Wonder Woman... it has also been said they have gotten Scott Snyder to consult and I am loving his work with the Batman comics at the moment.
I am terra-cited for this film.
More quick bits will come later as well as a few full on reviews.
I would normally warn whether or not there are spoilers in the revue when it comes to a blockbuster new release such as this but I truly can't. The fact is there is nothing to spoil, not a single surprise or unexpected moment; save for the teaser at the end of the credits which I will not explain but suffice to say there is much sequel baiting in it.
Now don't let all that distract you, this is a good movie. I enjoyed the hell out of it! The action scenes were clear and exciting, the dialogue tight and characters engaging. The actors all took their parts on exceptionally well and what normally is a granted in comic book movies; that there is something to be angry about from a feminist point of view does not hold true here. I will talk in detail about each of the good qualities in the movie without revealing too much detail of what happens, but first Ill explain my lack of enthusiasm at the start of this review.
Marvel's movies will most likely never have any great spoilers, they are incredibly safe and formulaic. Again this is not to deter you; movie formulas exist because they are popular and engaging, and Marvel pulls it's formula off without falling into cliches or being stuck in tropes. I find it difficult to write about the Marvel formula as it is hard to pin down, but I think it can be summarized as getting all the basics right and overlaying that with characterized humor. All in all, Marvel movies are very safe.
Now back to the Avengers. First of all it is not necessary to see previous movies to understand this, if you must see any than I would recommend Iron Man and Thor; it assumes you know the back story of Iron Man and the conflict between Thor and Loki comes off a bit underdeveloped if you haven't seen it before.
Looking to each of the elements of the movies success, firstly the action. The third act is well paced and they really give each character time to show off their skill set. Black Widow less so but they had already given her a lot of time during the movie for solo fight scenes and martial arts isn't as fast paced as the others so it makes sense. However, the final fight is still incredibly formulaic, the hero's emerge kicking ass. Things get difficult, the last reluctant member shows up. They kick more ass until eventually the numbers appear overwhelming and it leads to slow motion panning shots of each of the hero's as they look over the devastation with a realization of 'if we are going to go down, we are going to go down fighting'. And finally the self sacrificial moment that results in a scare... Now before you complain of spoilers I would ask who here really thought Marvel would kill off one of the main six? Hmmmm? Nobody. That's what I thought.
The dialogue and the characterization, now here is where Marvel is really excelling. They are nailing down the most recognizable, merchandisable and easy to understand aspects of the personalities. The genius play boy, the honorable solider, the troubled assassin and her mentoring figure, the inexperience but good-hearted king, and the tormented reason vs emotion. They don't leave it just at this and expand all of these basics to their next logical conclusion, and understand how these would play off each other. Not just to how to arrogance of Tony Stark would conflict with the moral sense of Captain Rogers but how someone who clearly believes in personal freedoms and liberties and enjoying them, such as stark would want to help someone who has to repress his emotions such as Bruce Banner. They then capture the humor that rests in these conflicting personalities and bring it through, not as one-liners but believable (to an extent) dialogue.
How does this movie portray women? It doesn't, it portrays characters, some of whom happen to be women. I knew this movie was on the right track when it introduces Black Widow captured and tied to a chair, she is threatened with torture and death... she is not threatened with rape and this really does make a huge difference if shows that those who have her captured realize that she is an enemy, a danger to them and takes that seriously. It wasn't till later that I realized just how well it portrayed women, aside from one line in this scene 'this is not how I wanted the night to end. BW: I know how you wanted this to end', aside from this one line which suggests a sexual trap she was using there is not a single line of dialogue that needs to be changed if this was a male character again with Agent Hill. They have written the female characters well but how have they actually portrayed them in the shots. A common complaint against comic books and the movies based off of them is that women are forced into awkward poses to try and show off as much as they can in a sexual way. There was a poster for The Avengers which received a fan make over.
I love this work and it really does show what is often a key problem, woman are shown as sexy AT THE COST of their skills, bad-assary and character. Now that said I have no problem with a bit of fan service as long as it does not take place of character development. Black Widow's tight skin clothing makes sense for her role as an assassin. She doesn't have it unzipped for show as it would be impractical and unprofessional. There is one scene where she is talking to Loki and the shot does unquestionably bring her rear end into the shot, but it's not forced it doesn't maker her seem weak as she is holding a strong pose. Marvel is also very aware that their market is growing with these movies, young men are no longer the sole (or majority) audience, and they have adjusted their fan service and it has certainly come across in movies such as Captain America or Thor. Women and gay men like a bit of a show as well, and on that note... Thor... just, just DAMN!
I heartily recommend this movie, I don't mean to bash it as I call it safe because it is still incredibly well done and engaging.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.